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Biotix Review



Quick Look: Biotix
Designer: Zach Huff
Artist: Tina Bongorno
Publisher: Smirk & Dagger Games
Year Published: 
No. of Players: 2-5
Ages: 14+*
Playing Time: 30-40 minutes

* I think even ages 10 and up would do just fine with Biotix.

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com


Smirk and Dagger Games Biotix Board Game Review; Photo by Benjamin Kocher

Review:
First things first. The box says “Play dirty, get a reaction!” My wife, upon seeing that for the first time, may have raised an eyebrow at me. I told her not to worry, that playing dirty simply implies the take-that mechanic in the game (which it does).

Second things second, the game is fast and fun. More to the point, it’s a small-box game with easy-to-learn rules and quick turns. That, coupled with heaps of “take-that” gameplay, makes Biotix a competitive and player-interactive game that’s well suited for travel, small tables, and people that have no qualms about having their science experiments ruined by other so-called “scientists.”

My Experience
Once I got over my initial shock at seeing the stickers that taunted my lack of coordination and inability to match shapes, I was quite impressed with the simple nature of the rules. It took no time at all to learn, and teaching it to others was a breeze. One thing I look for in small-box games is quick play time (or, at least, the feeling that it’s going quickly), and Biotix definitely feels quick. 

I really like the clock mechanic, which ends the round when drawn from the bag. Everyone gets three (or two, in a five-player game) rounds to build up their petri dishes, after which the clock token is tossed into the draw bag, which is then given a good shaking. Once the clock token is drawn, the round ends. This makes it for some uncertain, shifty-eyed moments when placing specimen. Of course, you want to maximize your points by having a full petri dish, but if it’s full and someone doesn’t draw the clock, chances are they’ll give you one or two of the organisms they just drew, causing your petri dish to explode in a reaction not seen since your high school chemistry lab experiment gone wrong. It adds a bit of a press-your-luck element to the game, some political begging and pleading ("if you don’t destroy my experiment, I won’t destroy yours"—not that that’s ever worked, but hey, at least you tried), and a healthy dose of stress.

Because each Biotix species reacts differently when there are too many of the same type, the set-collection mechanic is constantly teetering on the brink of disaster or success. One reaction might save your neck, while another might give your opponent some much-needed points. It’s really difficult to plan just what will happen, so just like the microorganisms you’re playing with, you’re reacting to what you draw and what you’re given. 

If you like a good ol’ game of karma, Biotix is fun. It’s not for everyone, though, as the anger could certainly get real if played with people who don’t like confrontation. It’s a light game (both physically and mentally), but it plays well. We found ourselves grinning grins of diabolical glee when setting off reactions in other players’ petri dishes. We also laughed a good deal, too. It’s a good game. Nothing fancy, nothing earth-shattering, but nonetheless a good, solid game. I do wish there were more meaningful decisions to make, but the nature of the game kind of limits that, what with the random pulls and player brutality. Still, I find Biotix fun and engaging. As my personal tastes go, I do prefer games of a deeper nature, but I have no problem playing Biotix as a filler game. If you’re a fan of filler games, then you’ll most likely enjoy this one even more than me.

Setup:
First, you gotta sticker each and every Biotix species. For people who failed shapes class (like me), aligning these stickers can be a pain in the microorganism. Fortunately, I have a very patient wife who received honors in her shapes class, so I had her sticker the wooden tokens.


Biotix Explosive
Betcha can't guess which one I did and which one my wife did. (Shapes are hard.)

Once the sticking is finished, you may want to take a drink of eggnog or drown your pains with Oreos™ and milk. (If you couldn’t tell, I struggle with stickering…and coloring inside the lines.) Then, give each player a player board (or petri dish, as they are called in this game). Drop all the stickered (or non-stickered, if you simply gave up trying) microorganisms in the specimen bag, and give it a good shake.

Don your smock, snap on your rubber gloves, position your safety glasses, and you’re ready to play!

Gameplay:


Biotix Board Game Review at Everything Board Games,  Smirk and Dagger Games, Photo by Benjamin Kocher

At the same time, everybody says a word out loud. The person who sounds most scientific goes first (I really enjoy this part of the game). Because I say things like “Rumplstiltskin,” I’m usually not the first player.

Anyway, the first player takes the white clock piece/token and places it on the “3” on their player board (or "2" in a five-player game). This player then takes two Biotix microorganisms from the slick specimen bag. From here, the first player may play these microorganisms on their player board (on the matching color spaces), or give one or both to an opponent. The specimen bag is passed to the next player (clockwise). When the bag returns to the first player (the player with the clock token on their board), the clock token is moved down to the next number. If the bag returns to the player with the clock, and the clock is on “1,” the clock is then tossed into the specimen bag—which is then given a good shake—and play proceeds as normal. When the clock is drawn, however, that triggers the end of the “day,” or round. 

At the end of the round, points are tallied according to the intrinsic values of each specimen. Then, a new day begins, with the player who drew the clock placing it on their player board on the "3" space. Play proceeds as it did in Day 1, and so on and so forth.

A few things to note. Whenever a microorganism exceeds its limit (i.e. there cannot be more than there are colored boxes on the players’ petri dishes), it reacts, which can either be a good thing, or a very bad thing. Each Biotix reaction is listed on the handy player aid cards. Some force the player whose Biotix reacted to give up even more specimens from their petri dish, while others remove some from opponents’ dishes. This makes the giving of specimens to other players a strategic—and dangerous—choice. Obviously, having your own petri dish explode isn’t a good thing, but watching your opponent implode as you “gift” a microorganism is oh so satisfying. Just be careful, because what goes around really does come around.

Next, there’s an interesting catch-up mechanic, or “Eureka Paradox,” that happens at the end of the second day. If any player is behind the leader by 20 or more points, these players may secretly write down the color of a specimen on a piece of paper (or in the Notes app of your phone, like I did—no cheating!), along with a number: 1, 2, or 3. The number represents how many of the selected specimen that player figures they’ll have at the end of Day 3. If, for example, I chose the green Repulsive microorganism, and wrote down “2” along with it, I would need to end the game with two of the green guys at the end of the third day. If I have exactly two—as I so miraculously guessed—I receive 30 extra points. This catch-up mechanic is huge and wonderful and actually works. Not only is it rather difficult to accomplish, but when it does happen, the game goes from blowout to neck-and-neck!

There are optional black (or “Aggressive”) Biotix you can play with as well. These replace your choice of Biotix when played on your petri dish, whether self-imposed or gifted by someone else. These are worth -2 points at the end of each day, so try not to get stuck with too many. However, if all you have are Aggressive Biotix, then each one is worth 5 points (in the positive) at the end of the day. So there’s a bit of give and take going on there that favors the brave, but can also punish, as well.

At the end of the third day, points from all three days are totaled, and the player with the most points wins.

Theme and Mechanics:


Biotix Board Game Specimen Bag, Photo by Benjamin Kocher

The theme of growing a culture of microorganisms fits well with the mechanics. Of course, “take-that” mechanics aren’t in your everyday biology lab, but when fame and glory (and your name on a published paper) are involved, you’ll do what it takes to get ahead. 

The mechanics play well together. There’s a lot of player interaction with the giving (and stealing) of microorganisms and setting off reactions on other players’ petri dishes. The way the round ends is wonderful, and the set collection, while difficult at times, plays along with the lab setting.

Artwork and Components:


Biotix board game Specimen Bag, Smirk & Dagger Games, Photo by Benjamin Kocher

The art is fun and the components nice and sturdy. There are stickers to stick, but if you have a few extra bucks, I’m sure you could find someone to do that job for you. Alternatively, feel free to play without the stickers on the wooden microbe tokens. If you go that route, be aware that you won’t have any zany faces looking up at you from your petri dish (which is always good for a laugh right before they react).

The Good:
  • Fast gameplay
  • Easy-to-learn rules
  • Small box
  • Lots of player interaction
Things I’d Rather Not Deal With:
  • Stickers
  • Not having enough meaningful decisions to make me feel like I’m in charge of my fate
Final Thoughts:



Biotix is a good, fun game. Sure, there are some things I’d rather not deal with, but I know going into it that those things are there, and it is what it is. In fact, sometimes it’s good to have a light game on the table that doesn’t have to hurt my brain too much. And for that, Biotix is a swell option. While I do wish I felt more in control of the outcome in my petri dish, I do get that the mechanics weren’t made for that type of experience. Knowing that, it’s hard to discredit the game itself. It really is fun. For me, I doubt it will get to the table too often, but when it does, I’ll certainly enjoy it. Chances are, if you're reading this review, you're into this type of game more than I am, and if that's the case, you're gonna like it.

Players Who Like:
Fans of filler games, small-box games (seriously, this would do great on an airplane), and easy-to-learn games should give Biotix a serious look. If you simply like messing with your friends and watching them writhe in agony as you sabotage their science experiments, then Biotix is an obvious choice. 


Check out Biotix on:

          



Benjamin Kocher - Editor and Reviewer

Benjamin hails from Canada but now lives in Kentucky with his wife and kids. He's a certified copyeditor through UC San Diego's Copyediting Extension program. He's a freelance writer and editor, and covers everything from board game rule books to novels. An avid writer of science fiction and fantasy, it comes as no surprise that his favorite board games are those with rich, engaging themes. When he’s not writing or playing games, Benjamin loves to play ultimate Frisbee, watch and play rugby, and read the most epic fantasy books available. Follow him on Twitter @BenjaminKocher and Instagram @Kocherb, and read his board game-inspired fiction at BenjaminKocher.com.

See Benjamin's reviews HERE.
Biotix Review Biotix Review Reviewed by Benjamin Kocher on February 26, 2019 Rating: 5

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